My second garage sale of the summer will be held at 840 Damon Drive
in Medina, Ohio, on Friday and Saturday, July 27 and 28, from 10 am
to 3 pm. My first garage sale of this summer, like my one and only
garage sale of last summer, was very successful. As a result, many
of my readers have asked for my advice on how to run a successful
garage sale. It’s easy.
What you do is retroactively become one of the leading reviewers in
comics, going back over two decades, and have publishers send you
hundreds of comic books each and every month. Then, having amassed
a Vast Accumulation of Stuff that fills four large rooms in your house
and a storage unit costing you nearly $100 a month, you will have enough
stock to make big bucks selling comic books fivefor a buck, trade
paperbacks for two bucks, etc. Changing the past is so simple
Mitt Romney and I wonder why everyone doesn’t do it.
The first garage sale I ran, over two decades ago, was a complete
bust. I had several tables of comic books priced at the going rate
or less. I teamed up with a friend of mine who sold baseball and
other trading cards at flea markets and small comics/cards shows.
I took out an ad in the local newspaper. I didn’t make ten bucks,
and that included my 10% cut of my friend’s sales. I didn’t even
think about doing another garage sale until last year.
I was inspired by my pal Chris Yambar’s Lawn Con. Chris invited a
bunch of fellow comics creators to set up tables on his lawn. He
got newspaper coverage of the event. Much fun was had by all and
some creators made some decent money at the show.
My original plan was to rip off Chris’ concept. But Chris is much
better at organizing than I. My lofty plans for “Garage Con” fell
apart almost immediately on my crafting them and I had to run with
a comics-centric garage sale whose only “guest” was myself. That
worked out better than I’d hoped.
Over the past two decades, I had gotten more and more involved in
the online comics community. I had a message board and a Facebook
page and a blog and a Twitter account. Baby, I rode every one of
those promotional ponies like I was a Kentucky Derby jockey. Yes,
I also advertised my garage sale on Craig’s List and in the local
newspaper, but it was the online comics community that brought my
garage sale across the finish line and into the prize money. And
this is where I stop with the equestrian sports analogies before I
hurt my brain going for dressage references.
Last summer, I don’t think I had more than three dozen customers in
the two days of my garage sale. However, most of them were comics
fans who had seen my “ads” for the sale online, who knew in advance
how low my prices would be, and whose patronage allowed me to make
a nice chunk of cash over those two days. For this summer’s garage
sales, I’ve tried to build on what I learned.
The big question mark this summer is whether or not I can continue
to do well at garage sales spaced but two weeks apart. Will there
be enough customers to sustain the profitability of these frequent
garage sales? I hope so, but, either way, I’ll let you know what
happens this weekend and throughout the summer.
As per the many requests I received in my ridiculous new position
as a garage sale guru, here are some thoughts and tips on how you
might be able to hold your own successful sales.
Be highly motivated. While my main goal is to make enough money to
pay some bills and make some renovations/repairs to our Tardis-like
house, I have other goals as well.
By the end of this summer, I want to turn a room currently filled
with boxes into a combination library, mailing station and reading
room. The comfy chair and a suitable worktable are already there,
but I envision bookcases and a corner of easy-to-use Drawer Boxes
to hold and organize the comics and books I’m keeping for the time
being. It’ll be my fan-cave.
Within the next couple years, I want to reduce my basement storage
space to one wall and stop renting the secret storage fortress. In
doing this, I’ll be able to move my family’s non-comics items from
the storage unit to the basement. Not renting storage space will
save me close to a hundred dollars a month.
Price to sell. This works best when you have the kind of volume I
have, but it can work for anybody. You can make money by selling
a lot of items and, realistically, much of what I have would never
go for anywhere near guide of even cover prices.
So my prices run like this:
Comic books and magazines...25 cents each, 5 for $1.
Trade paperbacks...$2 each.
All-ages trade paperbacks...$1 each, because I want to encourage
young comics readers to love comics as much as I do.
VHS tapes...25 cents each, 5 for $1.
Manga paperbacks...$1 each.
Though I sell my 1000 Comic Books You Must Read at $20 per copy to
match the Amazon price, issues of Grim Ghost and other things I’ve
written are at their original cover prices. That pricing reflects
the finite supply I have of those items.
Don’t give up on any section of your garage sales prematurely. I
barely sold any manga or VHS tapes last summer, but, this summer,
I’ve sold multiple stacks of each. If they stop selling, they may
be donated or go into the trash, but, for now, they remain part of
my garage sales.
Signage, signage, signage. Price everything clearly. I print out
signs for each section of the sale. I post a general price list on
the refrigerator in my garage. I even print out a sign informing
customers that not all items are suitable for all ages and that I
will be happy to help them find items that are age-appropriate for
their kids. Mothers have actually thanked me for that sign...and
for addressing their concerns.
No haggling. I’m adding a sign to that effect to my garage sales.
There are people - usually not comics fans - whose greatest joy in
attending garage sales is to whittle down already low prices as if
they were conquering barbarians. It’s a game to them, but it’s a
game that can and will drain energy better used to serve your more
Your garage sale is a business. It can be fun - mine are - but it
is a business. The innate negativity of these hagglers should not
be tolerated. It’s bad for business.
That said. I have no problem with taking a few bucks off for large
purchases or for returning customers. If someone buys 118 comics,
I’ll charge them for 100. If someone buys 160 trade paperbacks, I
might charge them for 150. The happier I keep customers, the more
they buy and, hopefully, the more they encourage their friends to
come to my garage sales.
Word of mouth. Be cheerful and make the experience a fun one for
customers. They will tell others about your sale. That’s one of
the reasons my anime and manga sales picked up this year.
Be prepared. Make sure you have sufficient change for your garage
sales. If you’ve priced your items in increments of quarters and
dollars you’ve already reduced the kind of change you need. I try
to start each sale with a couple rolls of quarters and fifty bucks
each in one and five-dollar bills.
Have a calculator and a writing pad at your sales station. Yeah,
you could do the math in your head, but, after several hours in a
garage in the summer, your head might not be functioning at 100%.
Accuracy is a good thing in business.
Other necessities: fans of the whirling variety and water bottles.
It can get hot inside my garage in these summers of global warming.
Stay cool and hydrated.
Make the Internet your best friend. I mentioned this earlier, but
it bears repeating. When doing a comics-centric garage sale, you
have to reach as far outside your neighborhood as possible. Even
in these days of wider acceptance of our comics passion, the vast
majority of your neighbors are not comics fans.
Reach out to comics fans and retailers within driving distance of
your garage. Let them know, as much as you can, what you have for
sale and how low your prices are. I’m not so good at the “letting
them know” because I don’t really know what I have in any given box
until I go through it, but I talk about my low prices frequently.
I’m confident my customers will find a lot of stuff of interest to
them and love those low prices.
See that? I mentioned low prices three times in one paragraph and
I didn’t even break a sweat.
I have an advantage over most of you when it comes to these garage
sales. I enjoy a certain minor celebrity from my four decades as
a comics professional...and I’m not at all shy about exploiting it
to attract customers.
If you, too, work or have worked in comics, use it to benefit your
sale. If you don’t and haven’t worked in comics, come up with fun
ideas to attract some local publicity. Maybe give a comic book to
anyone who shows up in a comic-book costume. Maybe give a comic to
any kid who gives you a drawing of their favorite comics character.
Take photos so you can use them to promote your next garage sale.
Two successful garage sales don’t really make a garage sale guru.
We can make that call at the end of September when the last of my
2012 garage sales are concluded. In the meantime, I hope the above
conversation has been of some help to you.
If you’d like to check out my garage sales, here’s the schedule for
the rest of the summer...
Friday, July 27 (10 am to 3 pm)
Saturday, July 28 (10 am to 3 pm)
Friday, August 10 (10 am to 3 pm)
Saturday, August 11 (10 am to 3 pm)
Friday, August 24 (10 am to 3 pm)
Saturday, August 25 (10 am to 3 pm)
Friday, September 7 (10 am to 3 pm)
Saturday, September 8 (10 am to 3 pm)
Friday, September 21 (10 am to 3 pm)
Saturday, September 22 (10 am to 3 pm)
Thanks and I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella